The original settlers on the island before any one "dropped by for a rediscovery visit" were the Amerindians from the South American mainland. The main group, the Arawaks (or Aruacas) was a peaceful tribe from the upper regions of the Orinoco, in Guyana. These had settled mostly in the south of the island, where they employed themselves hunting, fishing and growing a few crops such as cassava, maize and sweet potato. They wove cotton to make hammocks, used tobacco for religious rituals, and expressed their artistic urges through woodcarvings and pottery.
The northern part of the island - which the Amerindians called "Iere", or "Land of the Humming Bird" - was inhabited by a fiercer tribe called the Caribs. A warlike people, the Caribs had come originally from the Amazon region, settling the islands of Tobago, St. Vincent, Dominica, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
They lived merrily merrily all across the country until one July 31st in 1498, Columbus and his crew saw these three hills in the vicinity, and named them the Trinity Hills. He called the island La Trinidad, in honor of the Blessed Trinity. Here he decided to make a quick stop to civilize the crazy bush people living there. War, enslavement and diseases brought to the island by the outsiders took their toll, eventually wiping out the Amerindian population almost completely. Estimated to have been about 35,000 when Columbus discovered the island, the indigenous population now numbered about 300, concentrated mainly in east Trinidad, near the town of Arima
Christopher Columbus thus claimed Trinidad in the name of Spain and so the Spaniards ruled the land for about two centuries but it was at least 30 years before Spain showed any official interest in her new possession. In 1530, the Spanish king appointed the conquistador Antonio Sedeno to be Captain-General of Trinidad for life, with a mandate to subdue the unruly natives. Sedeno struggled gamely to accomplish his mission, but the circumstances were against him; four years later, he returned to Spain, and Trinidad was once again left to her own devices. The Spanish soon chose a capital St. Joseph ( or San Jose) located in the north of the country. To replenish the human labor that was lost, slavery was instituted into the island. Blacks were made to toil the vast sugar cane planations and it was not abolished until 1838. During the Spanish rule, very few Spanish people settled in Trinidad and by the 1780's, Spain through the Cedula Act, invited all Catholic nations, to come to Trinidad . This was during the time of the French revolution, and many French fleeing the conflicts between the Royalians and the Republicans accepted the offer made by the Spanish to colonise Trinidad. French planters from the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe came during this time. The plantation owners cultivated sugar-cane, coffee and cocoa, and brought with them African slaves to cultivate the land. When the British arrived, they met a country ruled by the Spanish with French speaking citizens.
Several other sporadic attempts were made to settle the island over the next hundred years or so, none of them particularly successful. Apart from the Spanish, small groups of Dutch and British established small colonies; but these were short-lived. Thinking that religious conversion might be a way to increase their control over the Amerindians - many of who were already falling prey to that fatal European import, smallpox - the Spanish established missions manned by the Capuchin Fathers. Indians who rejected Christianity were severely punished - thus straining even further an already strained relationship.These tensions led to the famous Arena Massacre of 1699, wherein the Amerindians, pushed beyond their limits, rose up and murdered the priests, the Spanish governor and all but one of his men - an action for which they later paid dearly.
Don Jose Maria Chacon was
the last Spanish governor until he surrendered at Valsayn to the attack
of the British in 1797.Trinidad became a British colony in 1802 and Tobago
in 1814. (They were enjoined administratively by the British in 1889 and
then politically linked as ajoint colony in 1890.)
Up to the 19th century
the islands like most colonies, developed as primary producers, supplying
The direction of economic development began to change with first, the discovery of oil in Trinidad and then the commercialisation of the petroleum industry discovered in 1866 and by 1908 crude oil production began. In 1912, the first oil refinery in Trinidad was established. In 1954, marine drilling began off the west coast of the island. In 1959 commercialisation of natural gas began with the establishment of the first ammonia plant. By 1986, the first commercial oil and gas discoveries were made off the east coast.
During the 1970's with the oil boom, Trinidad and Tobago was well poised to use the revenue generated from the increased production in the energy sector, to diversify its economy.
In 1962, Trinidad
and Tobago became independent and in 1976, it became a Republic.